Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

When Mitt met Sandy

It seems that Mitt Romney’s campaign is adopting a new slogan: “Yes, we can.” As in the canned goods the Republican presidential nominee is collecting to donate to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

But as Romney temporarily turned his campaign into a massive food drive, he’s finding that, unlike franks and beans, charity and politics can be a tricky mix.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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At a Romney campaign rally on Tuesday in Kettering, Ohio, hastily rebranded as a “storm relief” event, he asked attendees to bring food and goods to donate. “Long white tables to one side of the cavernous James S. Trent Arena were piled high with flashlights, batteries, diapers, toothbrushes, mini-deodorants, fleece blankets, cereal, toilet paper and canned goods,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports.

The effort was complicated by the fact that security at such events is pretty tight, and attendees had to get all their bags containing donated goods checked out by the guys with the earpieces. It probably would have been far easier to just drop the stuff off at the nearest local food bank — or to text a donation to the Red Cross, as a sign at the event also suggested. (The Red Cross has said it prefers cash over cans.)

And in Virginia, the Romney campaign’s call for donations went out at an awkward time. Just as public safety officials, along with every weatherman in the country, were warning people to stay off the roads and hunker down in advance of the damaging storm, Team Romney was urging them to hit the roads and come by campaign offices. “Bring donations to VA Victory offices,” Curt Cashour , Romney’s Virginia communications director, tweeted Sunday.

Of course, Romney wants to avoid looking overtly political while much of the East Coast is assessing the ravages of Sandy (and while President Obama is trading his role as a candidate for that of commander in chief). Still, the campaign’s new can-do mode clearly isn’t a perfect fit.

2-4-6-8, what can we consolidate?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s spectacular “oops” moment in a debate during the Republican presidential primaries — when he couldn’t remember the third Cabinet agency he would abolish — doomed his chances.

But his loss doesn’t mean some agencies won’t be targeted for extinction or consolidation no matter who wins next week.

President Obama last week repeated a proposal he made earlier this year: to merge the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency — and create a “secretary of business.”

(Note to file: Consider a Loop contest to come up with a name less lame than that.)

The Wall Street Journal immediately blasted the notion, which has been kicking around for some time.

And Mitt Romney is expected to propose agency consolidation to streamline government — though he hasn’t outlined specifics. He has talked about eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development (in fact, he mentioned that during the same fundraiser at which he dismissed 47 percent of Americans as moochers).

The president’s Republican challenger has also said he that plans to cut the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent and bring federal pay more in line with the private sector. “More in line” is presumably a euphemism for freezing or cutting federal salaries.

Romney, who said in 1994 that he wanted to eliminate the Education Department, said during one of the primary debates that he favored sending the functions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the states, or “if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

The D’s, with Hurricane Sandy still wreaking havoc, are insisting this meant abolishing FEMA. But Romney’s campaign has been in clarify mode, insisting that didn’t mean eliminating FEMA, only giving the states a greater role. Romney, at his storm-relief event in Ohio, declined to answer reporters’ shouted questions on the matter.

But don’t hold your breath for a Cabinet restructuring no matter what the election outcome. Congressional fiefdoms make that extraordinarily difficult absent a cataclysmic event like 9/11, which prompted the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Too hypocritical even for Capitol Hill?

A prominent Tennessee conservative called Tuesday for the resignation of a Loop Favorite, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).

The antiabortion physician has been in a bit of hot water since it was revealed that he had pressured his patient and mistress to have an abortion. Even better, a second woman claimed last week that she had an affair with him back in 2000 and told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that she also smoked pot with him.

Apparently that was it for Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty, who said in a statement that DesJarlais had reached “a level of hypocrisy that is simply untenable.”

Well, maybe for some people.

Daugherty added that DesJarlais had “accomplished something incredibly difficult. He has embarrassed the United States Congress.”

Precisely. All the more reason for DesJarlais to stand his ground.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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